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In all the stories about Republicans and conservatives lauding President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks – even as Democrats go scalp hunting – one surprising fact has escaped partisan and media attention: This may be the most shrewdly organized entering White House since Ronald Reagan’s. To see why, look at the history of the top inside position, chief of staff.
Starting with Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, there developed separate Democratic and Republican ways of organizing the White House. Democrats preferred the FDR model in which cabinet members and senior staff enjoyed more or less direct access to the president. Republicans followed Ike’s example and had a strong chief of staff who controlled the all flow of people and information in and out the Oval Office.
As a result, Democratic administrations gained reputations as unruly free-for-alls, Republican ones as disciplined and efficient. But from Eisenhower’s Sherman Adams to George H.W. Bush’s John Sununu and even George W. Bush’s Andrew Card, most GOP chiefs of staff left their posts to one degree or another under a cloud, invited to leave if not publicly forced out.
There was a time when the Republican National Committee was terrified that Donald Trump would launch a third-party run. Now their biggest fear should be Trump as the face of the Republican party.
Once a candidate is the presidential nominee, it is the party’s job to defend every statement he makes. When Romney criticized the 47 percent, or McCain suspended his campaign after the economic crisis, or George W. Bush was blindsided by reports of a 1976 drunk driving arrest, the RNC had to support their candidates and aggressively attempt to spin the bad news in their favor.
Every candidate makes missteps here and there, but Trump has based his campaign on indefensible statements. Criticizing POWs because “I like people who weren’t captured.” Claiming a debate moderator had “blood coming out of her wherever.” Saying that in New Jersey, “thousands of people were cheering” the fall of the World Trade Center. Bragging that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
I recently received a letter from Tony Parker, treasurer of the RNC, excerpted below:
Chairman Priebus has written to you several times this year asking you to renew your Republican National Committee membership for 2012 As the Treasurer of the RNC, I’m concerned that we haven’t heard back from you … I know other things come up, and perhaps you’ve just been delayed in renewing your membership. If that’s the case I understand … I hope you haven’t deserted our Party.
Everyone knows that in 2012 the Obama campaign trounced the Romney campaign in use of technology to get out the word and get out the vote. Both with social media and in-house tools (Obama’s geek squad v. Romney’s ill-fated ORCA) the GOP’s efforts were laughable.
But there was also traditional TV advertising. 2012 brought record output in this medium, with almost $2 billion spent and 3 million ads aired, according to NPR. However, not everyone was subjected to the same levels of exposure. Niche markets/demographic and key regions were the major recipients. For instance, Obama outspent Romney 12-1 in Spanish language ads, and residents of places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida saw nothing but candidates during ad-time for 6 months.